HOWEY: A prayer in Sen. Lugar’s wake

The Indianapolis Children's Choir sings at funeral services for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
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Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS (Howey Politics) – On a gloriously warm and sunny afternoon, the people of Indiana and the family handed Richard Green Lugar to his maker and into the pantheon of Senate statesmen.

The ceremony at St. Lukes United Methodist Church, one that was forged by Sen. Lugar and his wife, Char, had the feeling of a state funeral with Chief Justice John Roberts, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a half dozen of Sen. Lugar’s colleagues and Hoosier leaders in attendance.

“It’s the end of an era,” Vice President Mike Pence said, noting something you’ve read in this column, that Lugar’s passing came quickly after that of Sen. Birch Bayh. The two join a list of giants in the historic Senate pantheon that include Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Robert Taft, Robert La Follette, Sr. and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. These men steered the nation in profound ways and fueled the soul of mankind's most dynamic republic.

“He’ll be remembered among with the pantheon of senators who commanded the respect of his peers of both parties and who exercised enormous influence in foreign affairs,” Pence said. “His contributions to our nation are countless.” Included were the 7,500 Soviet era nuclear warheads that the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program eliminated, or the securing of chemical and biological weapons that could have killed every human many times over.

This 1976 file photo shows former mayor Richard Lugar, R-Indianapolis, as he campaigns for U.S. Senate. (photo courtesy University of Indianapolis Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives)
This undated file photo shows Mayor Richard Lugar, R-Indianapolis, working in his office. (photo courtesy University of Indianapolis Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives)
Former Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar speaks during a ceremony to present him with an insignia of the Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire at the British Embassy in D.C., April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
An honor guard escorts the body of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to lie-in-state in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Sen. Richard Lugar lies-in-state in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Charlene Lugar, widow of Sen. Richard Lugar, arrives for a brief ceremony at the Statehouse in Indianapolis honoring his life, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Family members look on as Sen. Richard Lugar's body was brought to lie-in-state at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Gov. Eric Holcomb, R-Ind., speaks as Sen. Richard Lugar's body arrives to lie-in-state at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Mayor Joe Hogsett, D-Indianapolis, holds his hand over his heart honoring Sen. Richard Lugar as he was brought to lie-in-state at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
A portrait of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., hangs next to a case at the Statehouse in Indianapolis containing memorabilia from his life as the senator lies-in-state, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Sen. Richard Lugar lies-in-state in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Well-wishers wait in line to speak with the family of Sen. Richard Lugar as he lies-in-state in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
A quote from Sen. Richard Lugar hangs at the Statehouse in Indianapolis as the senator lies-in-state in the rotunda nearby, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
A case at the Statehouse in Indianapolis containing memorabilia from the life of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., as the senator lies-in-state in the rotunda nearby, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., talks with fellow well-wishers after a service honoring the life of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, May 14, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
The Indianapolis Children's Choir rehearses before performing at Sen. Richard Lugar's public funeral service at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Sen. Richard Lugar's family walks into St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis for his public funeral service Wednesday, May 11, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
An Honor Guard escorts the body of Sen. Richard Lugar into his public funeral service at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
More than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the life of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
The Indianapolis Children's Choir sings at funeral services for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at the public funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Former Sen. Sam Nunn speaks during a funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, speaks during a funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Sen. Richard Lugar's sons, Mark, Bob, John and David, spoke at his public funeral service at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Dignitaries including both of Indiana's current U.S. Senators, Todd Young and Mike Braun, attended public funeral services for former Sen. Richard Lugar at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
More than 1,000 people attended the public funeral service for Sen. Richard Lugar at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, May 15, 2019. (WTHR Photo/Evan Hoffmeyer)
Birch Bayh, the Democratic senior senator from Indiana, greets and Richard Lugar, the Republican junior senator from Indiana, before a committee meeting at the Capitol building in Washington in 1978. (photo courtesy Susan Fleck via TheStatehouseFile.com)
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., left, and Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., take a moment to plan strategy prior to hearings on Billy Carter’s relationship with the government of Libya on Capital Hill in Washington, Wednesday, August 21, 1980. (AP Photo/Harrity)
Former GOP Senator Richard Lugar introduces Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech in support of the Iran nuclear deal at the National Constitution Center, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

His partner, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, said, “Indiana and our nation were very fortunate to have Dick Lugar as a public servant. I was very fortunate to have him as my trusted partner and friend. Cooperation and compromise is often misunderstood today. Some take it to mean giving up on principles. Dick Lugar never compromised his principles. Dick made the world a safer place and a better place.”

Nunn related the historic opportunity where the pair were trying to convince Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They met with Ukraine President Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk in the fall of 1992, knowing that if that nation gave up its weapons, the others would follow. After arduous talks “as darkness fell, President Kravchuk escorted us out. He had all the news media gathered and he announced Dick Lugar had just committed $175 million,” Nunn recalled. Lugar and Nunn were stunned, but “offered no serious rebuttal.”

“Fortunately,” Nunn said, “President Bush later signed off on Sen. Lugar’s unauthorized and unconstitutional offer.” On later trips, Nunn would look at Lugar and say, “Dick, did you bring your checkbook?” These two operated on a global stage, working with heads of state, on dilemmas that often seemed intractable, solutions elusive.

Listening to those who eulogized Lugar established an important benchmark for our nation. Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who served as Lugar’s chief of staff, said, “He was as stunningly rare a person as he was a public servant” … a man “with a set of principles grounded in patriotism and a commitment for equal opportunity for every American to rise and flourish."

“Something more fundamental took precedence,” Daniels continued. “It was the pride of association with a man so stellar, so singular, so exemplary in both his professional and personal life that one enjoyed a sense of personal respect by reflection. If Dick Lugar ever had an ill-tempered moment, I never saw it; if he ever spoke an unkind word about anyone, I never heard it; acted out of raw selfishness, I never witnessed it.”

Sen. McConnell added, “People came first, he met everyone where they were, from street corners to church basements of this city during the civil rights era, to the halls of the Senate and beyond.”

McConnell told the story of Lugar being approached by a woman at a Lincoln Day Dinner. “Sen. Lugar, I’m sure you don’t remember me,” the woman said. Lugar responded, “Of course I remember you, Mary, and I think you were wearing that same lovely dress the first time.”

“Talk about scoring some points the first time then giving them right back,” McConnell said as the sanctuary erupted in laughter.

McConnell compared Lugar to the biblical Lazarus, who lived beyond the tomb. “The recipient of this miraculous grace didn’t hole up in some monastery. He dove into public service, rolled up his sleeves, he tended to the sheep. He repaid God’s generosity by serving others, by making the Church and the world better.” Lugar, he said, “took the blessings poured out on him and poured them back to serving others.”

Jim Morris, who served as Lugar’s first mayoral chief of staff and later headed the United Nations Food Program, added, “Dick Lugar had a brilliant way of offering an idea and he was as comfortable in dealing with other people’s ideas as he was with his own.”

Bearing witness to leadership today, where truth has morphed into "alternative facts," where principles are disposable, and festering problems are kicked to future generations that will lack the flexibility and assets we have today, my prayer as I stood in this magnificent church Dick and Char Lugar helped create, is that future leaders emerge who approach the promise and determination of our dearly departed.

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter.

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